Carlo Scotto at the Four Seasons: experimental pop-up that has style and substance
Former Xier chef has taken over the hotel’s Amaranto restaurant for a one-month residency
My rucksack has been provided with its very own stool, my jacket has been courteously taken away and hung up and no fewer than three people accompanied me to the lavatory to ensure I arrived there in one piece. It’s fair to say, things are looking fairly swanky. And that makes sense, because I’m at the seriously snazzy Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, sampling an experimental seven-course tasting menu from the critically acclaimed chef Carlo Scotto.
Scotto has set up shop in the kitchen of the Four Seasons’s elegant Amaranto restaurant for the month of April ahead of the launch of his new eatery, the 36-cover Amethyst, in Mayfair next month. It’s a significant development for the Naples-born chef, who closed his modern-European Marylebone restaurant Xier in December 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We will blow away the customers at Amethyst,” he assures me.
Over the next couple of weeks, Scotto will be using his residency at the Four Seasons to test the proverbial waters for his new project. I’m not told which of the dishes I’m sampling will make it onto the final menu at Amethyst, but this teaser suggests that Nordic and Japanese flavours will feature prominently, alongside his signature bold and innovative ingredient combinations.
Unfortunately for the hardworking and passionate team, the restaurant was rather empty when I visited on a Wednesday evening. This was linked to the hotel’s capacity being significantly down (likely due to Ramadan), coupled with particularly terrible weather that evening. It feels like unfortunate timing that the end of the fast coincides with the close of Scotto’s pop-up, but there is so much hype around Amethyst that perhaps it is better for the team to have a month to spend on trial and error, without being rushed off their feet.
When a culinary experience describes itself as “experimental”, that can set faint alarm bells ringing, but Scotto’s menu managed to be boundary-pushing without losing sight of what patrons actually want to eat. My highlights included a warm and loveably pudgy sourdough made with potato and rosemary oil served with a smoked butter that I could have happily tucked into with a teaspoon, and an umami-heavy melt-in-the-mouth portion of Alaskan black cod, served in a caramelised miso broth.
A salty parmesan and burrata croquette was another high point, the fried delight accompanied by a tarragon mayonnaise and burnt hay – the latter being a first for me and I imagine many of the diners who also happen not to be horses (I had to double check that I’d heard our waiter correctly). Another stunning dish comprised of salmon marinated in rose water for 30 hours (not a wasted minute!) alongside a sumptuously creamy foie gras, which was crowned with tiny Granny Smith apple “flowers”.
A concern you might have when facing down a tasting menu is that you’ll be too full to appreciate what you’re eating as you reach the final stages of the meal, but the portion sizes here were thankfully well thought through. I also appreciated the pace of the experience – we had precisely the right amount of time to digest between each course, while never feeling impatient for the arrival of the next mouthful.
Our tasting menu was expertly paired by Filippo Carnevale, who was head sommelier at Xier and is taking the reins at Amethyst alongside his long-term business partner, Scotto. My dining partner and I enjoyed receiving brief explanations from Carnevale at every pour, who contextualised each wine for us, talking us through the thought process behind the pairing.
We started with a creamy and almost nutty Ruinart champagne with the finest bubbles I’ve ever tasted, before working our way through a series of whites hailing from California’s Napa Valley, Rioja in Spain and Langhe in northern Italy. Our beef course was paired with a full bodied, smoky glass of Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, also from the Napa Valley, with its clove-like overtones perfectly complementing the richness of the meat, which had been marinated with more than 30 spices and came with barbecued Medjool dates.
Dessert – an “amethyst geode” made of crunchy praline, hazelnut mousse, bittersweet clementine jam and white chocolate – was Instagram worthy, but happily not a case of style over substance. It really did resemble the geological formation, aided by the rock-like slab of dehydrated chocolate on the top of it (which had quite a strange, crumbly texture). This was accompanied by a deliciously fruity Sicilian dessert wine, which was our seventh tipple of the evening and perhaps slightly unnecessary, but when in the Four Seasons…
There are only a couple of weeks left to experience Scotto’s residency, so I would suggest booking pronto. But there’s no need to stress if your April’s looking chocka, as all this and more will no doubt be available at Amethyst, which is already taking reservations.
The seven-course tasting menu at the Four Seasons is £120 per person, with the option to add on either a classic or prestige wine pairing at a supplementary charge of £135pp or £195pp respectively. To book see fourseasons.com